Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

This content was published: May 21, 2017. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Using Gmail in D2L Brightspace

Posted by

In our previous announcements and online drop-in sessions about the June 20th D2L Brightspace update, we shared some examples of how the newer email interface will work. For those who couldn’t make it, we also wanted to provide more explanation and demonstrations. We’re excited for the change because students and faculty have struggled with using multiple email systems for years. And we think the change will be relatively simple for most of our users.

What is changing?

We are standardizing on a single email tool (PCC’s Gmail) for mail sent within D2L Brightspace. This means that messages sent within D2L will actually be delivered to your pcc.edu account. The secondary email tool within D2L will be retired (though messages retained) and there will be less confusion over which email students (and instructors) should use.

How do I send messages?

Fortunately for long-time users, the way you send messages doesn’t really change much. You still should go to the classlist and click the name(s) of those you want to send messages to. You will still compose the message within D2L, but the message will be delivered to the pcc.edu address.  Here’s a quick demonstration from Michael Moss showing how to send an email message.

How do I read messages?

You will read your email that is sent from within D2L Brightspace in your PCC Gmail. If you aren’t already logged in to your Gmail in another tab, you can log in from the Access Google Apps widget on the main My Home area in D2L. The first time you will need to Authorize D2L and Google Apps, which you can do with the first step in this guide. Then, you’ll see a link to your mail (and other apps).

Access Google Apps widget links to your Gmail account

Many of you already have email opened in a separate tab, so this won’t be entirely new.

How do I keep track of class email?

The single biggest concern about this change has been about managing email so that you don’t lose messages from your students. We have what we believe is a great way to do that using labels & filters in Gmail. Messages sent from your class will include an automatic subject (which you can edit) that includes your class name. For example, if you’re teaching a Biology 112 course, the subject line will include the course name as it appears in D2L as part of the subject. For example:

Subject line automatically includes the course title, BI-101-0-13428

You can completely modify the subject if you want, or what we’ll be encouraging everyone to do is to leave the course label and just update the information after the course name.

So that takes care of messages coming out of D2L. But how do you organize them when the messages arrive in Gmail? Fear not, Michael Moss has put together a quick video that demonstrates the use of labels & filters.

How do I get additional help?

We know change can be hard, and there’s never a great time to make changes. And while this change is relatively simple, our Instructional Technology Specialists have a number of training and drop-in opportunities to help support you navigate this change. Starting the week of June 6th, we’ll be offering overview training at multiple locations. Sign up for a training now!

Anything else I should know?

There are a few things worth mentioning about the change that might affect you as an instructor.

  • You will still be able to access old messages relatively easily via the “Sent Mail” button in the compose message window. If there are important messages that you use every term, it might be worth saving those to a Google Doc so you don’t have to search for the messages every term.
  • MathML equations aren’t displaying correctly in PCC Gmail. So while you can create nice equations in the messages when you send them from D2L, Gmail doesn’t render them correctly at this point. We’re looking at ways to get the equations to display correctly, but are recommending using the discussion tool for posting Q&A messages that require equations. The equations will still render correctly everywhere else in D2L.
  • Your deans, the Registrar, and all the other fine folks who stress about FERPA (including us in DL) want to remind you that you should only use your PCC email for sending college related emails – especially for communicating with students about grades.
  • If you routinely send executable files (like for CS classes), you may need to zip those files up first, or look at using the Assignments tool or SWS if you run in to security issues. Most email systems restrict sending executable files for security reasons.
  • This is how many other colleges manage email with D2L. In fact, there haven’t been any updates to the D2L mail for years because it’s not as widely used as other college email systems. So we spent time talking to other schools and believe we’ve captured most use cases. However, if you find any issues, please let us know.

About Andy Freed

I'm the Director of Learning Technology & Innovation (LTI!), where I oversee our infrastructure, technical support, and online student services teams. I've been with the College since 2001 and have worked in several positions, from tech... more »